Western Australian Vines Resort spa is acclaimed

A leading resort in Western Australia has won international acclaim for the quality of its spa treatment.

Novotel Vines Resort, in the Swan Valley, was among the winners at the 2018 World Luxury Spa and Restaurant Awards, held in Northern Ireland.

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Keishi Spa at the Vines Resort was named the global winner in the prestigious categories of best luxury boutique spa and the best luxury golf resort spa.

It was also recognised as the Best Luxury Beauty Spa in Australia and Oceania.

The awards celebrate exceptional service  in the luxury wellness and fine dining industries.

World Luxury Spa and Restaurant Awards are considered the pinnacle of accomplishment and are a benchmark for luxury hotels and spas across the globe.

This year, more than 140 countries competed in 100 categories, with entrants ranging from safari lodges to health retreats.

At Keishi Spa, guests are treated with luxury Babor Skin Care and Aromatherapy Associates in a secluded sanctuary at the Vines Resort, which is about 35 minutes from the Western Australian capital of Perth

The spa, which is popular with resort guests, features a couple massage room, dual Vichy showers and a hairdresser.

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The spa is situated in a secluded sanctuary under towering trees, between the resort’s golf grfeens and swimming pool.

Spa owner and manager, Everlyn Zaccagnini, said it was particularly pleasing to take out the global awards in sections where Keishi Spa had won its continental honours last year.

This, she said, was “a huge elevation in status and reason for us to be immensely proud.

“It is testament to the hard work of all our staff and we are honoured to win such accolades.”

Featured hotels travel Western Australia

Hilltops attraction centres on a lone pine

A popular tourist attraction in Australia’s Hilltops Region focuses on a tree that became a symbol of courage.

A lone pine – long a poignant reminder of Australian and New Zealand spirit and sacrifice at Gallipoli in World War I – is a centrepiece of the Memorial Park at  the town of Boorowa.

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The pine stands silently at the end of an avenue of trees and plaques honouring the 26 Boorowa district men who were decorated for meritorious service during the ‘war to end all wars’.

Situated in an attractive location alongside the Boorowa River, the memorial park was established in its current form to commemorate the centenary of ANZAC in 2015.

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Lone pines have become a feature of World War I memorials in Australia, in memory of the battle of Lone Pine at Gallipoli – in which more than 2000 Australians and an estimated 5000-7000 Turkish soldiers died in about four days.

The Hilltops Region included the towns of Boorowa, Young and Harden-Murrumburra, in the south-west of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous State.

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These traditional rural areas have combined to create a modern and vibrant tourist area, focusing on history, culture, craft, agriculture, vineyards, restaurants, and quality stone fruit.

Hilltops Region travel

Lambing Flat Chinese Garden

Silence…. Except for the faint trickle of running water and the occasional splash of nearby Black Swans, the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden was peaceful and quiet.

Although only four kilometres from the thriving town of Young, in Australia’s Hilltops Region, the site could just as easily be a world away from anywhere.

It’s particularly hard to imagine the violent events that occurred nearby almost 160 years ago, during tension between Chinese and European gold miners.

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These events, known as the Lambing Flat riots, led to a law called the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act – the beginning of the so-called ‘White Australia Policy.’ 

However, that was obviously well in the past in 1996, when the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden was established to recognise the contribution of the Chinese community to Young and Australia in general.

It would, indeed, be hard to think of a more restful and tranquil place.

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We visited as part of a brief swing through the Hilltops Region, a popular tourist area in the south-west of New South Wales, the most populous State in Australia. 

Hilltops Region covers a diverse, historic and relaxing rural area centred on the towns of Young, Boorowa and Harden-Murrumburrah.

An afternoon storm cleared as we arrived at the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden and the sun breaking through the clouds spotlighted an amazing mix of colours.  

The light sparkled from wet rocks and the colourful plants and trees were reflected from all sides as we crossed the bridge to the garden. 

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After making our way past the marble lion sculptures that guard the garden entrance, we wandered down a pathway covered in yellow and red fallen leaves until we reached the Pool of Tranquility.

The view across the garden to the aptly named Chinaman’s Dam was stunning and we sat in silence, soaking up the beauty of the surroundings. It was good for the soul.

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Sitting in a valley surrounded by low hills, Young is the commercial and service centre for an agricultural area long known for its stone fruit, sheep, cattle, pigs, cereals, and vineyards. 

Under the Hilltops Region banner, the area is also a key part of a growing tourist trade focused in part on history, culture, arts, crafts and boutique farm-gate produce such as fruit jams and spreads.

And, the riots at Lambing Flat (an early name for Young) are a significant part of that heritage. Gold was found in the area in 1860 and, within months, there were about 20,000 prospectors in Lambing Flat – of which an estimated 2,000 were Chinese.

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Apparently believing that the Chinese miners were abusing the settlement’s scarce water resources, Europeans attacked and drove off the Chinese.

When about 11 men were arrested, thousands of miners rallied and demanded their release. The men went to court, but were set free.

Eventually, police ranks were boosted; one European miner was killed; the courthouse and trooper’s barracks were burned down; shots were exchanged; and the Riot Act was read for the only time in New South Wales.

Controversial then, the gold rush period is now viewed as extremely significant in Australia’s development. Young boasts an excellent folk museum, which draws large numbers of visitors.

The town has gone from strength to strength. Among other things, it is regarded as the nation’s premier cherry-growing district.

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And, to get a complete idea of the development of the area’s culture, we thoroughly recommend a visit to Chinaman’s Dam and the stunning Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden. 

Australia Hilltops Region Regional New South Wales travel

Town House Motor Inn, Young, Australia

The Hilltops Region of south-western New South Wales, has plenty of  boutique and traditional accommodation options.

For our visit, we based ourselves in the town of Young and deliberately booked into the area’s original motel, the Town House Motor Inn.

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We knew that the Town House Motor Inn dated to 1960, but had recently welcomed new owner-operators – and was being refurbished. 

It was an ideal opportunity to see how the revamp was going. Here’s the ‘Memorable Destination Review’:

Q: Was the booking process simple and problem free?

A: Yes. We checked prices with a few online booking sites; found the best price; and booked. The process was straight-forward, flexible and easy, without booking fees.

Q: Did the Town House Motor Inn communicate after the booking?

A: We received a confirmation email, but  were delighted to see that the motor inn’s has a great Instagram account, a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and an excellent  website.

This communication was particularly informative – and the Instagram account, in particular, allowed us to  gain a good idea of the scale of modernising underway at the inn.

Q: Does the Town House Motor Inn have street appeal? 

A: The frontage to Zouch Street, Young is tidy, visible and easy to find. The Town House Motor Inn is right in the heart of Young’s central business district and is also in the restaurant and civic precincts.

It is within walking distance of the main street shopping area; the Hilltops Council office; Young Library, the NSW Government Service Centre; and the Hilltops Regional information service. It is also surrounded by eateries.

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Q: How did check-in go?

A: Smoothly. We arrived slightly earlier than expected on a chilly and foggy day, but our room was ready and warm, with the heater operating. The staff member on check-in was professional, helpful and friendly in appearance and manner. We were shown the off-street car parking area;  given directions to our room; and handed our door key and free wifi code. 

Q: How was accessibility, particularly for senior travellers.

A: The Town House Motor Inn does well, given the decade in which the original units were built.  

For a start, guests can drive directly into the off-street car parking area, from where it is a short, level walkway to the rooms. 

There were no stairs to enter our unit and it was a simple matter to wheel our luggage inside. It was also a level and step-free walk to the breakfast room and outdoor leisure area.

Our unit – which appeared to be one of the older-style rooms – was practical in design, compact; warm, well lit, comfortable and spotlessly clean. Light switches were sensibly mid-height;  door handles opened with little effort; and there were easily-reached clothes hangers in the open-front wardrobe.

 We found the bathrooms and showers simple to negotiate – but the height of the handbasin, shower hub and room layout around the toilet could have posed problems for a person in a wheelchair.

Q: Was the bedroom big enough?

A: There was plenty of space. The room contained a particularly comfortable Queen-sized bed, individual lights over the bed; wardrobe; chair; bedside draws on either side; and a luggage stand.

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There was impressive high speed wifi, tea and coffee-making facilities and individually controlled air conditioning.

Complimentary biscuits, replaced daily, were a nice touch.

Q: Were other facilities adequate?

A: The unit featured a bench area suitable to serving food and drink; a minibar; microwave oven; flat-screen television set; a kettle; and tea and coffee-making facilities.

A wide range of teas and coffee was replenished daily, as the unit was serviced.

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The bathroom was fitted with quality toiletries, fluffy towels, which were changed daily and a hair-dryer.

Our room (and every unit it seemed) opened directly onto a landscaped garden area and a self-service laundry adjoined the motor inn.

Q: Did the Town House Motor Inn have adequate charging points?

A: We always carry a multi charger and our unit easily catered for our six electronic devices. 

It was pleasing to see that the room included a power point on either side of the bed, ideal for using mobile phones as alarm clocks.

Q: How was breakfast?

A: Breakfast was included in the room rate – and was typical hearty country fare.  The breakfast room was easy to reach, spacious, comfortable, spotlessly clean and looked out onto an outdoor seating area.

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There was a wide range of cereals; toast and toppings; fruit juices; coffee and tea; and fresh fruit – as well as sausages, meat patties and baked beans.

A television in the breakfast room was telecasting around-the-clock news. 

Q: Were there any problems with the Town House Motor Inn?

A: None. The owners of the facility are obviously making a big effort – and are doing all the right things.

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It was interesting to see how they are renovating the inn while maintaining a high level of service. We were certainly impressed with the way in which the owners are documenting and promoting the renovation on Instagram. Top marks!

The friendly and highly professional attitude of the managers and staff was a highlight of our stay.

Age Friendly rating

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8/10: From our experience, it’s our opinion that the Town House Motor Inn makes a genuine effort to be ‘age-friendly’, within the confines of the area’s first motel. 

We would return without hesitation – and would be interested in casting our eyes over the accessibility features of the new rooms.

A particular mention must be made of the inn’s social media communication, which is logical, but especially progressive and appreciated.

Duration of stay: two nights

Location: The Town House Motor Inn is located in Zouch Street Young, a key centre in the Hilltops Region of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous State.

Australia Featured hotels Hilltops Region travel

Feature: The Hilltops Region

The Hilltops Region of Australia’s south-east has a look all its own.

As the visitor drives north from the tablelands and Canberra area, the countryside changes subtly. A tapestry of sweeping land opens before you, criss-crossed by obviously fertile river plains and occasional rocky outcrops – all relics of an ancient volcano, Mount Canemumbola.

It is these fertile soils that have long stamped the region as a primary industry force; delivering up grains, fine wool, beef cattle and a range of stone fruit.

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As we near our first objective, the town of Boorowa, livestock is wandering through paddocks turned white by early morning frost.

We’re mesmerised by the sunlight bouncing off the icy ground and spotlighting the red and yellows of leaves still freshly fallen from Autumn.

Stopping by the roadside, we attempt to film the beauty, knowing only too well that cameras can rarely do justice to nature’s lightshows.

The Hilltops Region features the historic towns of Boorowa, Young and Harden-Murrumburrah, along with numerous smaller villages. 

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Each has its pioneering stories and storytellers – and each town regularly celebrates its particular culture and history with a series of popular community events.

Together, the towns of the Hilltops are embracing the future; celebrating a diverse past; and carefully promoting a fast-growing tourism economy.

According to its own literature, the Hilltops Region attracted 414,000 visitors in 2016 alone, injecting AUD$79million into the local economy.

This regional development was the main reason for our visit.  We were keen to sample just why Hilltops was creating such interest among travellers – and how the region had played to its strengths to become a tourism buzzword.

And, at the same time, we wanted to see how the population centres themselves  – and the people there – had changed during the development of the Hilltops identity.

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We’d lived at Young more than 30 years ago, so that centre had particular sentimentality to us.

But, we’d been away a long time – and what we found on our ramble through the Hilltops both surprised and delighted.

Join us over the next week as we explore this journey and outline aspects of the Hilltops Region through our eyes.

As well as following this feature here on Memorable Destination, you can also join us on the ‘Memorable’ stable of Instagram accounts @memorable_destination @memorable_travels and @memorable_hotels.

The feature will also be highlighted on both our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Hilltops Region Regional New South Wales travel

Aussie outback cafe sells world’s most costly coffee

Would you believe a certain coffee at this Australian outback cafe can set you back about $50 a cup?

 It’s the Hervey Range Heritage Tea Room, high in the mountains north of Townsville in the so-called ‘dry tropics’ of Far-North Queensland.

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As well as the peaceful bushland location at Thornton’s Gap on the top of Harvey’s Range, the tea rooms actually have two big claims to fame. 

Firstly, they are known as the only place in Queensland to sell Kopi Luwak coffee – hailed as the world’s most expensive coffee. 

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Apparently, the coffee beans are collected from Indonesian jungles after being eaten and defecated by Asian palm civets, a small mammal that looks rather like a cat.

At the Heritage tea rooms, the coffee can be sampled for about 50 Australian dollars a cup.

Secondly, the tea rooms are also said to be in North Queensland’s oldest building – constructed of split logs in about 1865 and formerly known as the Eureka Hotel.

Construction of the hotel atop the ranges occurred just one year after Townsville was established as a seaside township

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The site is located on the old Georgetown Road, which was formerly the main route from the port of Townsville to the goldfields and pastoral areas to the west and north.

Nearby is the old Hervey Range Road, now known as Page Road and one of the few surviving examples of a roadway dating from early European settlement in the region

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On a recent review tour of Far-North Queensland, we relaxed in the peaceful gardens surrounding the heritage-isted building; played giant chess and card games; ate scones and cream; and downed an everyday garden variety latte.

Far-North Queensland travel

A dream continues deep in the woods

Love is a great foundation for grand plans.

An astonishing example of this can be found deep in the tropics of far north-eastern Australia.

There, sunlight filters down on a dream: a fairytale forest castle created more than 80 years ago by a Spaniard for his beloved. 

And, as we wandered through this unexpected delight, we quickly understood the romantic dream behind such an extroadinary creation.

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Jose Pedro Enrique Paronella was a romantic man – a dreamer in a harsh, no-nonsense land.

He arrived at Innisfail, Queensland, in 1913 and began work in the sugar industry while planning a special life with the fiancee he had left back in Catalonia.

It was while buying and selling cane farms that Jose discovered his dreamland – a beautiful tropical forest alongside the spectacular, cascading Mena Creek waterfall.

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Jose had never forgotten the grand castles of his boyhood land and the gem of an idea was taking root when he returned to his fiancee after 11 years. Finding that she had married another, he proposed to her younger sister, Margarita, and returned to Australia to buy his piece of forest paradise.

Their incredible dream was to build a castle. And they did – on 13 tropical acres a fantasyland gradually rose amid the tall trees, tangled vines, creepers and ferns.

Neither Jose nor Margarita were afraid of hard work. Their fingerprints in the concrete foundations remain as testament to their astonishing labour of love. 

No task, no matter how difficult, seemed to faze Jose.  Described as an ”engineer, architect, builder and everything else in one”, he threw himself into every challenge.

“People smile and say ‘Paronella, he is mad. To work so hard and to spend so much money this way! Why does he not sit down and rest’.  That is not my way”

Excerpt from ‘Spaniard’s Dream Realised’ – Brisbane Sunday Mail

The first section of the dream was a grand 47-step concrete staircase to shift building materials between the upper and lower levels of the site. 

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Gradually, the castle and its stunning surrounds took shape, including a grand ballroom and movie theatre designed to provide entertainment for the public.  

There were also tennis courts, tunnels, bridges, fountains, a museum; pavilion with turret-topped balconies, refreshment rooms and changing cubicles for swimmers.

All this was wrapped in an amazing area of gardens and more than 7,000 trees, including an avenue of Kauri pines that now tower like Cathedral spires.

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The backdrop of Mena Creek Falls  was used for North Queensland’s first hydro electric plant, providing power to the entire site – and a tunnel was burrowed through a hill to give access to minature waterfalls.

Despite setbacks, the dream of Paronella Park  continued – even after Jose’s death in 1948. 

In 1967,  Margarita passed away, leaving their son and daughter-in-law as custodians of the remarkable dream.

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Flood, fire and the area’s tropical cyclones also wreaked havoc on the castle and the vision was almost lost when new owners stepped in during the 1990’s and started a number of restoration projects, while carefully staying true to the park’s history.

Today, the site is officially listed as an important part of Australian heritage.

However, we defy first-time visitors not to catch their breath when they see the truly extroardinary sight of a Spanish castle partly hidden in a tropical forest in one of the most beautiful parts of our planet.

In this helter skelter world, the dream and the romance live on – and there’s something particularly reassuring about that.

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Paronella Park can be found at Mena Creek, Queensland, Australia, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Cairns.

As explained on its website, visitors can take a 45-minute guided walk through the highlights of the park; try a self-guided botanical walk; or see the delights of the site by night, when the waterfalls are lit.

There is also a Paronella caravan and camping park; a suspension bridge above the Mena Falls; a museum in Jose’s cottage; an arts and crafts shop and a tea house that features scones and home-made tropical jam.

The park is also a stunning backdrop for weddings and other special occasions.

Far-North Queensland Romance travel